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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  August 11, 2015 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT

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08/11/15 08/11/15 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from venice, italy, this is democracy now! to speak about the presence. art and artists cannot be dispossessed of the capacity to reflect the social condition under which art is made, traded, and position. amy: all the world's futures. that's the theme to this year's venice biennale, the oldest and most prestigious international
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art biennial in the world. we will speak to the exhibit's curator, okwui enwezor, the biennale's first african-born curator. than a state of emergency is declared in ferguson missouri. pray with our feet in our hands. when they look at our children, they give them the same consideration that they give their children. so we came today to make a proclamation. and so we reclaim this ground. god's ground. amy: as protests continue in ferguson, we'll speak to the writer sharifa rhodes-pitts and artist charles gaines here in venice, italy about the black , lives matter movement in the united states, activism as well as history, including the
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connections between police killings and slavery. all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. this news from ferguson, missouri, authorities have declared a state of emergency for st. louis county amid continuing protests marking the first anniversary of michael brown's death and the shooting sunday of another african-american teenager. nearly 150 people were arrested monday as protesters blocked rush-hour traffic on interstate 70. authorities also filed charges monday against 18-year-old african american tyrone harris, who was critically injured sunday night in what police describe as a shootout with officers. tyrone harris' father said his son and michael brown were "very close." the two attended normandy high school together.
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during the protests, heavily armed men from the militia group the oath keepers also roamed ferguson's streets. the militia largely consists of active and former military members and police officers who claim to uphold the u.s. constitution. meanwhile, st. louis county has filed charges against two reporters who were arrested last year covering the protests. wesley lowery of the "washington post" and ryan reilly of the "huffington post" were charged monday with trespassing and interfering with a police officer after officers alleged they did not leave a mcdonald's fast enough during an incident one year ago. we'll have more from ferguson later in the broadcast. in news from colorado, the governor has declared a state of emergency following the spill of at least three million gallons of toxic wastewater into the animas river. a team of epa workers accidentally triggered the spill during an attempted cleanup
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wednesday of an old gold mine. water sample show high levels of arsenic, lead and mercury. meanwhile four people have been , arrested in utah after protesters erected tripods monday to temporarily shut down the construction of the first commercial tar sands mine in the united states. the european commission has allocated 2.4 billion euros to help countries address the hundreds of thousands of migrants making the way to europe from africa. syria, afghanistan, and iraq. human rights groups have called this the worst migration crisis since world war ii. the italian coast guard says it rescued more than 1500 migrants on monday alone. a nigerian migrant spoke out on why he was forced to migrate to europe. >> i left nigeria because of the crisis of boko haram. everybody knows about boko haram
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. i lost my family. my house was burned to ashes. so there is a reason that makes me shift to [indiscernible] then i decided to ship to italy. amy: in news from japan, the kyushu electric power company has restarted japan's first nuclear reactor following the 2011 fukushima disaster. this morning, the company restarted one of the reactors at the sendai plant in southwest japan, as people protested outside. thousands marched monday in opposition of the plant's reopening. the move to restart the nuclear reactor comes just days after the 70th anniversary of the u.s. nuclear bombing of hiroshima and nagasaki. i was august 6 and the iraqi august 9, 1945. parliament has passed a sweeping anti-corruption package this morning in response to popular demonstrations that have swept the country in recent weeks.
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the laws are aimed at opening corruption probes and removing top officials. meanwhile, isil has claimed responsibility for two car bombings that killed nearly 60 people in the eastern iraqi province of diyala on monday. in turkey, a leftist group known as the revolutionary people's liberation army-front has claimed responsibility for the attack on the u.s. consulate in istanbul. two women shot at the consulate on monday. no one was killed, although one -- meanwhile, the united states has sent six f-16 jets and 300 u.s. military personnel to turkey's incirlik air base on sunday. turkey opened up the airbase to the united states last month. in germany, federal investigators have dropped the treason investigation against two bloggers who reported on plans to expand online surveillance. the journalists wrote for the independent news outlet
3:07 pm the move to drop the charges followed intense protests over what would have been the first time journalists faced treason charges in germany in over 50 years. the justice department has filed documents opposing a federal judge's ruling that women and children being held at family detention centers be released. in late july, u.s. district judge dolly gee condemned the mass detention as deplorable and ruled it was in violation of previous court decisions. the ruling gave the obama administration 90 days to either release the more than 2000 women and children being held in two texas facilities or to show just cause to continue holding them. the justice department filed documents thursday saying that changes have been made at the facilities that gee's ruling applies to practices no longer in place. meanwhile, five mothers and their children have filed a $10 million complaint against the department of homeland security,
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arguing they suffered abuse, neglect, and trauma in family detention centers. in news from the campaign trail, democratic presidential candidate hillary clinton has spoken out against republican candidate donald trump's comments that fox news debate moderator megyn kelly was asking him tough questions because she was menstruating. >> and while what donald trump said about megyn kelly is outrageous, with the rest of the republicans are saying about all women is also outrageous. they brag about flashing women's health care funding, they say they would force women who have been raped to carry the rapist's child, and we don't hear any of them supporting raising the minimum wage, paid leave for new parents, access to quality child care come equal pay for women, or anything else that will help to give women a chance to get ahead.
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amy: hillary clinton has also proposed a $350 billion plan to allow students to attend public universities without taking out tuition loans. the plan echoes calls made by her challenger, vermont senator bernie sanders. meanwhile, sanders has received his first national labor endorsement from national nurses united, as he continues to turn out record crowds. 2800 people attending his event in portland, oregon, on sunday. meanwhile, fellow democratic candidate and former maryland governor martin o'malley is criticizing the democratic national committee for limiting the number of presidential debates to six. and amalgamated bank has become the first bank in the country to establish a $15 minimum wage for its workers. it is the largest union own bank. bank ceo keith mestrich encouraged other banks to join the fight for 15, telling cbs -- "we didn't make $5 billion last
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quarter like bank of america did. but we are a profitable industry, and if there is any industry that can join this call, it's the banking industry." and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. well, we're on the road in venice, italy, the site of the venice biennale, the oldest and most prestigious international biennial art exhibition. the theme this year is "all the world's futures." the exhibit is curated by okwui enwezor of nigeria, who is the first african-born curator of the 120-year-old festival. he has described all the world's futures as a "project devoted to a fresh appraisal of the relationship of art and artists to the current state of things." enwezor has been widely credited for bringing political art back to venice biennale.
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he has said he has been inspired by the 1974 venice biennale when part of the exhibits were dedicated to chile to protest the u.s.-backed coup that overthrew chile's democratic government. as part of this year's seven-month exhibit, there is an epic live reading of all three volumes of karl marx's "das kapital." meanwhile, the artist adam pendleton incorporated the black lives matter slogan into his exhibit, which appears in the belgium pavilion. and the brazilian artist vik muniz created a boat covered in the front page of a venice newspaper published the day after nearly 400 migrants drowned off the italian island of lampedusa in october 2013. this year's biennale has not been without controversy. in may, the city of venice shut down iceland's pavilion in the biennale after the artist
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christoph büchel, working in collaboration with the muslim communities of venice and iceland, turned a 10th century church that had been closed down into a working mosque. police claimed the art project was a threat to public safety. well, we are joined by okwui enwezor right here in venice. in additioning -- to being the chief curator of the venice biennale, he is director of the haus der kunst museum in munich am a germany. he is also an also an art critic, editor, and writer. okwui enwezor, it is an honor to have you here, right behind the major theater where creative time, a new york-based art and activism organization, is holding summit. can you first place us, for people all over the world who are watching, what is the venice biennale and where is it in venice? >> they do so much, amy, for
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having me on democracy now! [captioning made possible by democracy now!] it is a great privilege to speak to you right at the epicenter of the biennale. it is a large complex of buildings dating back to the 10th century, in which many pacifists complex have been turned into spaces for the biennale. so in a sense, the biennale is not only situated within the oftorical fabric transnational trade, commerce, and geopolitical changes, but it is also located, if you will, in the push and pull relationship between identity and industrialization. it is very much engaged with all the history's that this place embodies.
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amy: talk about turning spheres into plowshares, we are sitting le, think the first industrial us and . they made warship in a day. and today it serves a very different purpose. >> you made a reference to the pavilion forh's the icelandic pavilion, was located in a decommissioned catholic church that have been closed down for over 40 years. so what you are really witnessing in venice is the way in which historical architectural historical sites for the purposes of making contemporary art exhibitions. because of the very vastness of the spaces and about -- vastness
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of contemporary art, these buildings are very much attracted -- attractive for artists with the kind and scope of art they do. in a sense, the relationship between the exhibition and the residue of history that resides is very important to explore. we're trying to do so both in relation to what happens here in arsenale, the industrial site, the old manufacturing, if you will, as well as in the central pavilion. amy: let me ask you about art and activism. the complaint so often art is removed from the world. here we are in a very rarefied space in venice, absolutely magnificent, the gondolas that go by -- although, venice is very threatened by climate change and the rising waters. i have just finished the headlines, and as you have
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heard, ferguson state of emergency, you just gave a speech today to hundreds of people. you connected the issue of the black lives matter movement, the issue of slavery, and the issue of the relevance of art today will stop i should people care about art when so much is happening, painful and people everyday slot -- people's everyday lives. >> there are many reasons why people should care about art. artists have a lot of important things to say a lot of important artists to explore and have a lot of meaning that they produce thickening gauge to really look -- you know, the world and deeper, meaningful but at the same time more prudent ways. so i do feel people should care about art, not only because of the fact that art changes the world, but i like to sort of think about what i do and the
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way i work with artists. a position of learning and true engaging the substance of their thinking, their concepts, and the materials that come together to produce the kind of affect art conveys. art matters and many, many different ways. and i think it is both in the large and small ways. that one can begin to see the utility of art, not a something to be appropriated as propaganda purposes, but art as a learning tool, as a teaching tool, but also as a way for the public to learn how to kind of expand their view of the world. particular,nale in struck by the level and dns and the depth of engagement by artists when you're thinking about the subject matter and you mentioned the black lives matter, but if you go throughout
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the exhibition, what is very obvious is the art of the engaged subject, artists are people who interrogate the relationship between former meaning is more than something that is essential, but also deeply engaging to the public at large. amy: i want to turn to the artist adam pendleton. he is the person who incorporated the black lives matter into the exhibit at the belgian pavilion at the venice biennale. adam pendleton recently spoke to artsy about the exhibit. >> one of the things that ended up becoming part of the project was the language that cropped up after the recent fatal shootings in the united states of people like trayvon martin and michael brown, and that is the black lives matter language.
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so i have incorporated that .anguage into the installation so i was really given the opportunity to think through that broad idea through my own work in very specific ways. that sort of involved me looking , which is aa foundation for all the things that i do, the merging of like as a signifier and is a kind of as a kind- and dada of movement. black lives matter is seen to be the kind of perfect way to encapsulate a response to that. amy: that was adam pendleton describing the exhibit at the belgian pavilion. i have to say that the description of venice right now, if you can do is give us the landscape of the biennale, where
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it takes place in the city. >> the biennale is divided into two major parts. , thes the exhibition director and curator, which i'm the one, and the other of an national pavilions in which curators and organizations, museums from different countries organize exhibitions located in the individual pavilions throughout the city of venice. for the countries that do not have pavilions, they rent spaces in different parts of the city to organize their exhibitions. but the fundamental part of the biennale is this relationship between international exhibition and the national pavilions. so the intersection of these two modalities makes always a very
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interesting conversation between artists and art works. amy: we're going to come back to this discussion and talk about okwui enwezor himself, how he came to be the first african oldest andr of the most well-known biennale -- biennial art exhibition called the venice biennale. stay with us. ♪ [music break]
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amy: nina simone singing "strange fruit" the famous song
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about slavery and lynching in america. "strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees." this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. we are usually in new york, but today we are on the road in venice, italy, for the venice biennale, the oldest art exhibition in the world. it is 120 years old this year. it's curator is okwui enwezor, a nigerian american curator, art critic, writer, poet, educator specializing in art history. he's the director of the haus der kunst museum in munich, germany, and the first african director of the venice biennale. so, okwui enwezor, let's talk about that. how did you come to head this most venerable art exhibition in the world? nice.l, that is really
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it is a question that really has no answer, i suppose, because there really isn't a strategy by which one arrives at being the assistant director of the venice biennale, but i can say -- i can speculate that first and foremost, once track record certainly does recommend the possibility of taking the helm of such an exhibition. amy: you were born in nigeria, but you then came to the united states at 18? >> i came to the united states at the age of 18. amy: why? >> to study. i studied at the university. my alma mater -- amy: he is going to be our guest and the next segment. >> he is still the one i know that want to the same school as i did. provide to beally
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a curator. it was not my invention. i never knew one could make a living at doing such a thing. it was not the omission of parents had for me when i left a jury for the united states. amy: how to jordan nigerian background influence your us x? >> for me, i came from a generation of opposed independence in nigeria in the 1960's. , a sensep in nigeria of the fact the world is round, the idea of the complex entanglement of destinies and processes. i arrived in the united states and sing myself on the emergence of that was not really what i thought my life should be. i wanted to be efficient at
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whatever i do, as a lawyer or teacher or writer, or's the case may be, a curator. -- or as the case may be, curator. amy: didn't you start as a poet? as adid, but i'm saying, curator, for me as a curator, the question is, what can i contribute that is meaningful to the advancement of the discipline that i'm working in? and i'm told what was lacking within the discipline was visibility of african and african american artists. to begin tomagazine open up and create the space of conversation around questions i was concerned with. but of course, one must remember
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that saying that one is interested in contemporary african art is not, for my perspective, a space of confinement was merely something that is much larger. ,my: how do you, okwui enwezor bring in the issue -- how do you bring in the art of africa, also the issue of post-colonialism? i mean, there was a big controversy here a few years ago when there was an africa pavilion that was based on one european collector's private collection. talk about that and where you have taken it a years later. wasn't quite a european collector's collection, began as a collection of the european collector which was then sold to an african collector in angola. muchf course, i was not so
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entangled with the presence of this particular pavilion as much as i was really objecting to the fact that you can't make a pavilion [indiscernible] bit facile and a outmoded and that is how -- amy: the idea that africa is not a country, but a continent. >> yes. it is a fantastic piece by one of the artists at the biennale, and a drawing of a text in which there is an imaginary europe, imaginary europe to africa. thereafter, i know you're not a country -- saying, dear africa, i know you're not a country. i think we have to remind ourselves of that. there's a certain way when you
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begin with the notion that one can create an african pavilion with the deep complexities that they face on the continent, the diversity of cultural archives that exist in the continent, and i think the reduce it in this one little thing and making it from a collection, was for me, something that needed to be interrogated. amy: post-colonialism? >> post-colonialism for me, i would daresay that postcolonial is not elsewhere. we are entangled with postcolonial. the postcolonial really has to do, in my view, with, you know, our engagement with -- and engagement with systems of power and authority, where everybody may exist in the west, in the south and east, in the north, and so on. way of the desegregated
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power from taking control of lives, of taking control of resources, of taking control -- so, to talk about the postcolonial, we can also be talking about some of the workers who are not going to earn $15 an hour, so we're really looking at systems of unmaking, of strategy of domination that, in my view, israel much present with us. amy: something that is very unusual here is you brought in the gulf labor committee. talk about their issues that have to do with the art world extending into gulf states like the united arab emirates, and the actual brick-and-mortar , whoms like guggenheim they are built by? >> i'm not so sure our present
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interest in gulf labor's work has to do with the art world, per se, but i'm very much interested in the way that labor enormousoves in this transnational zone. this is what i believe gulf labor, of course, is illuminated in a very particular and serious way. and of course, if you bring in the llouvre, new york university, the guggenheim -- amy: new york university's extension in abu dhabi. >> all of these cultural institutions that are creating the different kinds of partnerships in the gulf, it makes for news. but i want to say that for me, it is not necessarily to say -- not necessary to say that i absolutely endorse everything that gulf labor does, but i am
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committed to what they represent as to the question of active citizenship. in the active citizenship needs to have its public platform. these are people who are serious whom i respect, both individually and as a collective. for me, it was important to develop a coalition of souls with them, to be able to present the idea in a way that cannot be often,-- all too institutions of all different kinds are truly interested -- are really interested in their own self-interest. for me, the work of gulf labor is really to deepen our engagement through the process of critique and interrogation to become active citizens. amy: tomorrow on democracy now! here at the venice biennale, we ni.l be joined by miriam gha
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as we speak right now outside the theater in the arsenale, she is inside having a conversation with her father, a public conversation. her father is the president of ghani, andn, ashraf she is a member of the gulf labor council. >> a very active member. one of the members who i had in a series of meetings in developing the project to invite them to come. what really struck me about this group is the diversity of the group. just on a monolithic group will stop it is a group that is passionate about justice. a group that is passionate about equity. it is a group that is passionate about the necessity for deep engagement in the cultural field. and i think it would be a mistake to just simply look at
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gulf labor as another activist group. to karl marxo turn das kapital. every day at 5:30 is a recitation of das kapital in an epic live reading at the venice biennale. we hope we would be able to play karl marx's das kapital. i'm getting word from new york whether we can or we can't.
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you,e going -- let me ask i'm going to try -- we're going to try to play it. okwui enwezor, if you can tell thisy your chosen to have live performance every day. >> every project needs a sense of vocation. since we have really been for the last daily decade, since the financial crisis, talking a lot about the relationship of capital to labor, to the relationship of capital to inequality, i thought for the biennale, you know, why only make an oblique reference to these still highly relevant, you
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?now, -- from karl marx the book, which was really reaching in a different era, but central purpose and analysis, because of course, das kapital's economic and social analysis at the same time. this particular book, in the 19 century, one can read text of that in what is developing today. what is interesting that we have already finished all three volumes and starting again -- amy: this started in may? >> yes, started in may. the first three volumes of the three volumes have been read already, so the second reading is now commenced. for me, that was an exhibition like the biennale's location. and what more radical
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proposition that proposing something like das kapital to be read live. amy: let's go to das kapital being recited, this epic live reading at the venice biennale. >> the equal rates of profit, which is one of the end results capitalist production in its development that emerges in this case in its most simple form, as one of the points from which capital has historically preceded. in fact, to direct offshoot of the marx committed he which is in turn a direct offshoot of primitive communism. this original rate of profit was necessarily very high. business was very risky. -- ofst an account piracy, but also because nations often indulged in all kinds of violent actions when the opportunity presented itself.
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amy: an epic reading of karl marx's das kapital, on his second reading because this venice biennale started in may and goes through november. the oldest biannual art exhibition in the world, 120 years old. , a guest is okwui enwezor nigerian born curator of the venice biennale. you're not only the curator here, but you are also the head haus der kunst museum in munich. sarge to all the germans if i miss pronouncing it. the museum there will have majorented nearly as many solo shows a black artists as the museum of modern art in new york has in the past 20 years. -- how do you
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break through the eurocentrism of the art world? clucks you know, my interests are wide and varied in the art world, and i think it was my intention to be an enabler of what my curators wanted to accomplish. style is a roundtable. and it is true this roundtable -- through this roundtable we're able to raise questions, raise is people ofr it museums or positivity of women receiving major monographic exhibitions and museums, whether it is global diversity of a program, whether it is, you know, extending our
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discussionsn gender that go across in a different subject matter in a country like germany. but also, what i would like to say him a and i think it is very, very important to the venice biennale, is the people oftentimes ask me, kent art change the world? i say, i don't know if art and change the world, but by trying to expand the table of content of our field, we can have an effect. and it is my commitment to always try to expand the table of contents to approach what one does with great consideration, , that iso self-doubt the way operative. amy: finally, all the world's futures. that is the theme of this biannual.
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you chose it. talk about what it means. >> i think one can look at all the world's futures from multiple positions. and of course, many critics have come to the biennale and misread what the project was about. mayorhought i was sort of in the future extent. only talk about future in our world, equals -- thick of it from the utopian perspective. and deeply into utopia simply because i believe -- politics. i'm very much invested in the politics of the possible. and that means whether the future is talking about climate change, which is not something that one can look at and say, the understanding of
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projection into the future. the biennale itself is a diagnostic, in a sense, rather than proper austin. -- prognostic. to attempt the question, how is it possible to have this very fragile ecology that we occupy through imagining the possibility of futures for all the different groups that are struggling, you know, for a steak within it? that means a future for them, dozen people may have to share things, some people may have to give up some things, and so on. so this idea of all the world's futures is to really interrogate the end of politics him if you will, that the proposal or the suggestion of the future as utopian sometime lead us into.
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so in a sense, it is not an exhibition that is necessarily, in my view, you know, about projecting into some kind of wonderful thing, but to look at the here and now, how can we think together about this question of inhabiting simple fight ecology. amy: okwui enwezor, thank you for being with us, the curator of the venice biennale, the most oldest and venerable art biannual in the world. when we come back, we're going to talk about ferguson with two global artists, writers, from the united states. ferguson, which is in a state of emergency. we're broadcasting from venice, italy. stay with us. ♪ [music break]
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amy: "be free" by j. cole. this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. we're on the road in venice, italy, the side of the venice biennale, the oldest and most stooges international biennial art exhibition in the world. we turn now to look at how the art movement is responding to the black lives matter movement. this comes as authorities have declared a state of emergency in ferguson, st. louis county, amidst continuing protests marking the first anniversary of michael brown staff in the shooting sunday of yet another african american teenager. nearly 150 people were arrested monday as protesters blocked rush-hour traffic in interstate 70 to talk about the black lives matter movement in the art world, we're joined by two artist speaking at the creative
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time summit your the venice biennale. sharifa rhodes-pitts is with us, the author of, "harlem is nowhere: a journey to the mecca of black america." it is part of a trilogy she is working on about african-americans and utopia. she also operates an occasional pop-up book store in harlem bookstore, that is both -- has books and other relics, and also with this is charles gaines, kind nearing conceptual artist -- kind nearing conceptual artist who teaches at california institute of the arts. in 2013, the new york times that "if you're hungry for art that is beautiful, deeply thought through and politically unfold, here it is." charles gaines and sharifa rhodes-pitts, welcome to
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democracy now! the two of you have just finished a forum as we hear at the heart of the venice biennale . panelst finished a talking about art, talking about politics. you also just wrote a new york times op-ed piece about ferguson, about michael brown, about slavery. talk about what you're thinking about today. >> sure. the peace came out in the fall 2014 as the case was unfolding. it is coming firstly, always is,, as these issues -- it unfortunately, always new, as these issues are. increasedhing level awareness of the violence. i think what we all must and not one of your
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viewers is and is enough, it is not just happening for the first time, it is been happening. and the work i wrote in the publishing times, it is about this ongoing history. the observation of a slave evaluation chart from the 1800s in which the highest valued enslaved bodies was that of a 19-year-old black man. amy: say that again. >> the highest value enslaved bodies was a 19-year-old black man. the age chart starts at zero and the price of a slave rises at 19 and from their descendents. decisionsckbody value with age and trauma. oh so astonished the first time i saw that at the museum in charleston, south carolina. amy: an interesting it was charleston. >> indeed.
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this was several years ago, before all of this -- i was thinking about the fact what an incredible reversal of fortune, if you can put it that way. and you could make the argument the least valued thing in american society is that of a 19-year-old black man. so i was really interested in tracing the economics of that valuation and sort of tumbling as we have done into this history as it lives with us incredibleh is violence that is not gone away and has morphed and renamed itself and uses new tools, but is absolutely connected to our past. and that is just a great concern of the works that have inspired me and that i'm trying to carry out is to link this history of the past with the present, and how if you're willing to look at
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it, it is there in front of you all the time. amy: in the headlines, i said 2800 people came out to a bernie sanders event that took place in portland, oregon. actually, it was in 2000, it was 28,000. several times, most recently in seattle, he was arrested -- interrupted by members of the lack lives matter movement. i was wondering if you could comment on this. >> sure. it is interesting because there is a sense as time is going on and this movement is defining itselfand articulating and making itself known, the strategy of interruption is continuous from these political events that are now intersecting with the election season, but also going back to the occasion with the black lives matter movement interrupted a rally convened by auch upton's
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movement in order to make their voices heard all stop this is a very important strategy of saying the official bears of our voices are not on the stage right now, let us be heard. that is what happened. you could also look to the black brunch protest that were happening in the area and also new york where protesters were going to brunch establishments on sundays and chanting names of people that a been killed by police. and just really demanding the space and that this is part of .ur daily lives i think it is interesting just because there is a sense of some people around me are saying, there's a sense of people waking up or of this generation waking up and claiming its voice. so the strategies i think are -- in some ways, it it is.
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hate. is co- as an observer, i see a sense of something that is happening in this moment. it is not building itself directly on past movements, but using the tools of our time in order to do this work. amy: speaking of tools of our time, charles gaines, longtime artist, talk about the work you're doing inspired by what has happened in ferguson. you are actually trying to write an opera based on dread scott and what dred scott has to do with mike brown in the protest? yes, i was brought into a project by creative times to work on a public art installation in st. louis. i started this project before michael brown was shot. but when i came to st. louis to
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,isit the site and do research the michael brown incident had happened. when i arrived to do the research, demonstrations had already begun. it was already international news. i had no idea -- when i took on this project that it would become so meaningful. so while i was doing research for this, i went to test there's a famous courthouse in st. louis where the dred scott decisions took place. .here were three trials a lot of people don't know that. amy: dred scott, who sued for his freedom. he admitted to a free state area -- moved to a tryingate area and was to say on the basis of that, he should not be returned to a
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slave state. amy: and the dred scott decision? >> it went against him at first, but then, ultimately, on retrial, he and harriet gained their freedom. while i was doing this, i mean, looking through the dred scott files -- this is one of the most important legal judgments in american law because it really has to do with determining legal is human, who is free and who is not free. inchese is maybe three sick. my first divorce papers files were bigger than that. while i was going through the the variouseading
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judgments and so forth, i could hear outside the courthouse the demonstrations taking place. it had a profound affect on me. point the dredat scott trial isn't over. amy: and finally, the art exhibit you wanted to do at the base of the st. louis arch, and we just have a minute, so if you could describe it very singly. >> oh, yes, it is a structure that is 200 feet long that at the top of it is made of chains, chains thatooring rotate to simulate the mississippi river. you can go inside the structure and stand in her need these and watch the chains move above you. amy: like a river of chains. quick and also to make a slave chains.e amy: and the arch?
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>> it was a symbol for american progress, american kind during spirit. saint loses on the border of the mecca and frontier at the time of the lewis and clark expeditions and support in the arch is a celebration of that and to celebrate st. louis in american history. i recognize there's another side of the story, that one were you can read that the celebration of manifest destiny as a celebration of imperial and colonial empowerment. i wanted to bring that narrative to my project. amy: finally, sharifa rhodes-pitts, what being here in venice with all that is taking place in the united states that you're both deeply involved with, mean? >> well, one thing that comes to .ind to me, the connections at the moment that we're dealing with black lives matter and the
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violence against black people and brown people in the united sings, europe is a sparing incredible dust expensing thousands of black people here, too, and after venice will be going down to the center of the migration where people in the east and africa come through in order to arrive at europe. this perilous state of -- of people worldwide that a been subjugated to white for missy and capitalism is the thing that i think of. and here it is just one occasion among many to consider those connections. amy: i wish we could continue this discussion, and we well. sharifa rhodes-pitts and charles gaines, the conversation continues. sharifa rhodes-pitts's book is called "harlem is nowhere: a , journey to the mecca of black america."
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